The #1 ranked team in the country is in town. The Duke Blue Devils, but even with that ranking, the Blue Devils are the one's chasing the Hurricanes in the ACC standings. Duke is 3-1 in the ACC while the 'Canes are the lone unbeaten at 4-0. This game is huge for the program and we visited with Mike Kline from the Duke Sports Blog for some question and answers regarding all-time starting lineups and the battle at the Bank United Center on Wednesday night in front of a national audience.
SOTU: Duke has not looked the same since Ryan Kelly went down with injury as they dropped the game against NC State and looked average in the first half against Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes have a lot of bigs that can cause trouble for the Blue Devils down in the paint. Who do you think needs to have a big game for Duke to come out on top?
DSB: There are several players that don't necessarily have to have great games, but they need to play well. It starts with freshman Rasheed Sulaimon who prior to the Georgia Tech game, hadn't been the same player that he was earlier in the year. He has been one of Duke's best players defensively and has been a solid contributor on offense with his ability to create off the dribble and in transition. He is also a very good shooter. If he can put up double digits points and play with confidence. That helps Duke. The Blue Devils have also gotten a nice contribution from another freshman, Amile Jefferson. He isn't big enough to bang down low but he is quick and shown a nice ability to get to rebounds and get some shots up in the post. He isn't going to light up the stat sheet, but if he can give Duke some solid minutes that is good news, too. Duke can't replace Kelly but they need guys like Sulaimon and Jefferson to have solid games to help supplement the rest of the starters.
SOTU: Since I brought up the win against Georgia Tech without Kelly, what do you think was the biggest difference in the team's play from that loss to NC State as opposed to their win against Georgia Tech?
DSB: To me the biggest difference was the play of Sulaimon, he scored only 4 points and was 0-10 from the floor against NC State. Duke got 18 points from Jefferson and Josh Hairston and had Sulaimon hit his average then the game may have turned out differently. They are a different team without Kelly because they don't have another big like him. They have bodies but the only player with a similar skill set, Alex Murphy, scarcely plays. Duke doesn't have as good of spacing and as Mike Krzyzewski said, Quinn Cook has fewer options on the offensive end. As a result they run more set plays as opposed to just playing offense and right now they are still learning how to do that without Kelly.
SOTU: I know Miami has never been a real threat to Duke, or some other ACC teams for that matter, but right now with the team being undefeated and gearing up for a huge national televised game, what's the buzz from the Blue Devils' faithful about this Miami team?
DSB: It would depend on who you ask. The uninformed Duke fan who just pulls for Duke because they win probably don't think there is anyway Duke loses to Miami, but those who keep up with what is actually going on realize that the Hurricanes are good and very capable of beating the Blue Devils. Those are the ones that I prefer to listen to, and while they are mostly optimistic given how Duke played in the second half against Georgia Tech, most are expecting a tight game that could go either way.
SOTU: Duke has produced so many great players, as they are a national powerhouse, but if you had the opportunity to pick an all-time starting five for the school, who would they be?
DSB: Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, Art Heyman, Grant Hill, Johnny Dawkins
SOTU: Which players or match-ups on the Miami roster are you most concerned about?
DSB: I'm concerned about keeping Kenny Kadji off the glass. Duke has been killed on the boards a lot this year and if Miami gets a lot of second chance points then I like their chances of winning the game. Duke is a much better team defensively and are able to put a lot more pressure on the opponents but they have been struggling a bit in transition and if Shane Larkin can get the Hurricanes out and running then I'm worried about everyone. The Blue Devils will probably sacrifice allowing one guy to have a big game in an effort to shut down everyone else. Who that will be I just don't know yet.
SOTU: Finally, how will this game play out? Does Miami have a chance at pulling off the upset in front of a national audience? What's the final score?
DSB: Miami absolutely has a chance to win this game, especially if Duke doesn't shoot the ball well and of if they get killed on the boards. I am interested to see how Duke plays in this game. Do they come out like they did in the first half against Georgia Tech? If so they will lose. If they come out in the second half I think they can pull out the victory. I'm going to say that the second half was a positive sign so I'm going with Duke to win a close one 76-70, but against I wouldn't be shocked if that score is reversed. Miami is that good.
Thanks again to Mike for working with us. Be sure to head over to Duke Sports Blog, to see our answers for his questions, and don't forget to tune in to this huge game for your Miami Hurricanes, Wednesday night at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN.